Should Health Insurance really cover massage therapy?

There has been a lot of fuss made about Health Care Rebates for massage therapists over the last 5 to 8 years. Some people and some schools seem to think this is one of the most important aspects of a persons massage training criteria. We at Brandon Raynors School of Natural Therapies often get asked the question “Can I give Health Care Rebates to clients after completing your course?”

I would like to discuss why I have an opposing point of view to many in the industry as to the importance and relevance of these rebates.

Insurance for most things is generally to cover an unexpected event that is very costly. For example a car accident, a ship sinking, your house catching on fire. These are generally events with a low likelihood of occurring but with very costly effects when they do occur. Having insurance generally spreads the risk that these events will bankrupt a person or company out to many individuals. In other words customers of an insurance company all pay a certain amount of money to create a pool of money ( Minus the insurance companies fees) in order to pay for some unexpected costly event.

This was also the original idea behind health insurance. Pay the insurance company some money so that if you have a heart attack then you can get the best treatment without a huge sum coming out of your account all at once.

This idea does not fit with the massage industry. Massage is Preventative medicine, in its best form, and only sometimes used to treat specific injuries. What’s more, even when used in its non preventative form, massage is not a high cost treatment like many medical procedures. Even getting 50 massage treatments may only cost $3000 or less, which is the amount many people will spend on a car if it blows a head gasket or has some other problem.

Let me discuss this further. Preventative medicine is things that you do to keep you healthy. For example, eating healthy foods, exercise, relaxation, meditation, yoga, and massage. Stress is a part of everyone’s life. It only really becomes a major problem when it builds up too much. Preventative medicine techniques such as massage stop that build up happening. This is a predictable event, just as getting hungry is a predictable event. This should not be covered by insurance, as I mentioned before, as insurance covering predictable regular events is not its intended purpose. In fact, when insurance covers predictable regular events like getting a massage to keep stress levels down and prevent muscle tightness from developing then it adds an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and cost to the transaction.

So instead of a person doing a simple financial transaction by paying a practitioner $60 for a massage, which only takes about 3 minutes or less of administrative time, a person has to get a receipt, take it to their health fund, get them to refund the money etc… Not only that but the practitioner has a lot of compliance time and money wasted by having to fulfill the criteria that the health fund want in order to get a provider number etc….

In other words something economically simple has become economically complicated but achieves nothing more. A lot more people being paid to put pens to paper, and more stress created complying with regulations but the real actual produce was still one massage treatment. Not only that but the government has gotten involved by subsidizing health funds so now we have more tax money taken out of our pockets to pay bureaucrats to keep this ludicrous system going.

Imagine if we did that for every other simple economic transaction that goes into preventative medicine. Every time I go to the health food shop I get the receipts mail them off to an insurance company and get them to pay me back some of the money ( minus fees) that I just recently sent them for my insurance coverage. Its crazy.

The way this has all come about is because the medical industry is not preventative based and some people in the natural health industry have very low self esteem about what they are doing and feel that they need to be “recognized” by the medical industry to be respectable. So we have this crazy system of a preventative medicine technique such as massage fitting into a system that is designed for acute care.

The orthodox medical profession is designed mostly to treat sudden onset problems such as heart attacks and car accidents and this of course it does better than preventative medicine and these can be very costly. However it is not as successful in keeping people healthy as a preventative medicine system.

So the major use of massage in a health system should be to keep people destressed and well but even when massage is also used for people that have injuries or chronic problems massage is not so expensive that having insurance is required. As I mentioned earlier very few people, even when really not well, would require more than 50 1 hour massage treatments. Even if they required this many it would only cost $3000 at $60 a treatment. Considering also that 50 treatments would be spread out over several months this is hardly an unbearable expense for most people. Certainly not more than the cost of many common problems that occur periodically with automobiles.

So this is why I do not subscribe to being part of this crazy system nor do I want to encourage it.

I also believe that there is a danger to this system in that many people when they choose their training options think that this is very important. The reality is its not. The most important thing for a person when they consider their training options are the quality of the massage course that they want to undertake. Actually less than 20% of people have even subscribed to the highest levels of coverage with health funds and there is not benefit to the practitioner from these patients having this coverage anyway. The only thing the practitioner has to be concerned about in his early stages of having a clinic is not to lose potential clients. What we recommend is that people can offer a discount for the first treatment to these people to get them “in the door” so to speak, and then give them such a good treatment that they will want to come back, even if they don’t get their $10 back from their health fund. So compete on the basis of giving a quality treatment rather than on whether you can fit into an insane bureaucratic system of health rebates.

If a person focuses on becoming an outstanding practitioner and having excellent customer service skills, then they will soon have more clients than they can treat. They will no longer be so desperate for clients that they need to offer discounts to get people “in the door”. They will be able to choose their clients or even raise their rates if they desire.

A course that trains people to be excellent massage therapists is what people should look for when choosing a course to undertake for their training and that’s what we aspire to in our training techniques.

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